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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
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    Default Philly Got Jihaaded!

    What an epic story. Heck, they could do a Bollywood film about a Bollywood film company that shoots a film about a Bollywood film company bilking a town and their vendors ...

    Maybe I could get a small walk-on role?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Great Falls, Virginia
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    Default Re: Philly Got Jihaaded!

    For archive and other reasons, please just post the article.

    Philly Jihaad

    They came to shoot a Bollywood thriller. They left owing plenty.

    Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5985

    A BOLLYWOOD thriller filmed in Philadelphia last fall has turned into a real-life nightmare for many cast and crew members.

    Swish Films, the Australian firm hired to oversee production of the movie, quietly slipped out of town, allegedly owing a total of at least $500,000 to more than 500 actors, crew members, vendors — and the city itself.

    Now the movie, "Jihaad," which is expected to resume filming in New York City next month, is embroiled in a controversy extending across three continents and involving lawyers in three countries. At least two class-action lawsuits are expected to be filed in the next few weeks.

    The movie's plot involves an Indian woman wooed by a fellow countryman for her U.S. green card. The pair marry and move to New York, where she realizes that her new husband is part of a terrorist cell.

    The story of alleged payment problems with the movie begins in Mumbai, India, where Dharma Productions hired Swish Films of Australia last year to oversee the Philadelphia shoot of the film, known variously as "Swish Dharma Untitled #15" or "KP-15."

    The list of those who say that Swish owes them money includes: Teamsters Local 107 ($39,000), the City of Philadelphia ($12,909), the Philadelphia Boys Choir ($3,450) and the Chestnut Hill Business Association ($500).

    Caterer was canned
    Munish Narula, owner of the Indian restaurants Tiffin, in Northern Liberties and West Mount Airy, was excited about his six-week contract with Swish to feed the Indian crew during production here.

    He hired more staff to accommodate as many as 60 people a day on "Jihaad," the second Bollywood film for which he'd been hired to cater.

    Narula, 38, who was born in India and immigrated to the U.S. 18 years ago, was especially looking forward to meeting the movie's stars, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

    But two weeks into the "Jihaad" shoot, according to Narula, he and his restaurant were suddenly fired.

    "'We love your food,'" Narula said he was told by Swish's Mitu Bhowmick-Lange. "'The service is great. Dharma has found somebody else, so we have to fire you.'"

    At first, Narula said, he was incredulous: He had fed everyone on the set for 15 days and never saw a penny. He tried to negotiate with Bhowmick-Lange and Dharma officials, then hired a lawyer, he said.

    The restaurant owner sued Swish and Dharma in Philadelphia small-claims court for breach of contract. Neither Swish nor Dharma showed up in court, he said. The court ruled in Narula's favor, but he doesn't think he'll get his money.

    "None of them are based in the U.S.," he said. "They don't have any assets here. If we had a judgment against an American company, we could put a lien on one of their assets."

    Several people allegedly stiffed by Swish say that the situation comes at a particularly difficult time because of the bad economy.

    "It's definitely hurt," said Brian Schuley of Closter, N.J., a special-effects and stunts provider. "Take $22,000 out of your salary and see if that makes a difference.

    "I don't think they should be allowed back in the states to film unless they pay up," Schuley said. "If this [movie] is released, they are going to make money for a movie that they didn't pay any money for."

    Swish has repeatedly told anxious cast, crew and vendors that it will pay its debts. But as of yesterday, the company had not paid anyone since January.

    "Because of this Dharma production, I totally changed the way I do [business] now," said R.D. "Brit" Britton, owner of Philly Picture Cars, a Bucks County auto broker for movie productions.

    Britton said that Swish owes him $43,000, including money for five cars that he bought with a credit card, which later were damaged for an explosion scene.

    He said that the experience has caused him to adjust his business policy from "pay as you go, sometimes a contract, sometimes a handshake" to: "I need your credit card, your first-born child, driver's license, insurance, in order for me to rent you my car."

    In short, he said of Swish: "They screwed me."

    Stunts coordinator John-Eric Schuman may have been stiffed for the largest amount: He claims that he's owed $65,000, including wages for three employees, his salary, expenses, rental gear and gear damage.

    "It's a terrible experience; I don't think anyone can see it any other way," said Schuman, 38, of Saugerties, N.Y., who has even set up a Web site, www.swishgroup, to warn about Swish Films and its parent company, Swish Group.

    "The Swish Group based in Australia seem[s] to have a hard time paying crew members they hire for film productions," Schuman wrote on the site.

    "If you encounter a Swish Group employee immediately grasp the pocket your wallet is in and carefully back up. Do not turn your back on them. It is the equivalent to dropping the soap in a prison shower."

    'They have ruined my life'
    Los Angeles-based dolly grip Wayne Stroud also had angry words about Swish.

    "They have ruined my life," said Stroud, who claims he's owed $21,000. "They have ruined my credit. It's the first time in my life that I have ever been late on a mortgage payment."

    Stroud, Schuman and others were charged for part of their stay at the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia, at 17th and Walnut streets.

    Schuman and Stroud say that hotel managers told them that Swish had not paid in full for their lodging, as it had promised to. Credit cards handed to the hotel by Stroud and Schuman for incidentals ended up paying for part of their stay, they said.

    Stroud was charged $852, but most has been credited back to his card. Schuman was charged about $3,100, and is still disputing the bill with the Radisson and with Swish, which he said has not returned his calls.

    Stroud said that he and others have filed complaints against the Swish Group with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. An agency representative said in an e-mail to the Daily News that it does not comment "on such matters."

    A promise to pay
    "The crew payment[s] were and remain the full responsibility of Swish Group," the group's managing director, Cary P. Stynes, wrote in a letter to Dharma's Apoorva Mehta, dated Jan. 22. He has promised in e-mails to crew members and suppliers that payment would be forthcoming.

    Stynes told the Daily News by e-mail on Saturday that his firm "is endeavouring to resolve all issues to do with the shoot which it anticipates should happen shortly."

    About "95% of all monies due on the shoot were paid in full and on time," Stynes said. He claimed that checks issued by Swish were not honored because of a delay in transfer of funds from Australia. He did not explain why there is still a delay.

    Swish Films CEO Marcus Georgiades did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

    Ironically, Bhowmick-Lange, who had dealt with Tiffin owner Munish Narula, and who worked for Swish overseeing day-to-day expenditures on the Philly shoot, says that the firm owes her "several thousand dollars."

    She wrote in a March 11 e-mail to the Daily News that she had resigned from Swish "due to their completely atrocious business practises that has entailed a complete lack of clarity not to mention credibility.

    "My reputation, which my career is founded on, has been assassinated by these events and has caused me intense emotional distress," she wrote.

    An American crew and an Indian crew both worked on the Philly production. Dharma paid the Indian crew directly; the American crew was supposed to be paid by Swish.

    Swish's alleged victims in Philly worked as many as eight weeks, beginning in late October. Many, however, weren't paid their final wages.

    Warnings and 'bad karma'
    Dharma says that it paid Swish more than $1 million to fund the Philly portion of the shoot. No one from the Australian company disputes that.

    Dharma apparently was undeterred by a September 2008 audit report by Ernst & Young warning of "significant uncertainty" regarding Swish's ability to pay its bills and continue operations.

    "Without the ability to raise equity or enter into debt arrangements there would be significant uncertainty as to whether the Company would be able to continue as a going concern," read the report, signed Sept. 22 by Robert J. Dalton, in Melbourne, Australia.

    Reliable remuneration appears to have been an issue for Swish even before it set up shop in Philadelphia.

    Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, said that she was warned last fall by the San Francisco Film Commission that Swish had refused to make good on a payment.

    The California matter was soon resolved, she said, but she warned vendors working on the Bollywood production to make sure that they were paid in advance.

    "I had bad feelings," Pinkenson said. "The karma was bad."

    In Philadelphia, many of Swish's alleged victims have turned to Center City law firm Cozen O'Connor, which is expected to file two class-action suits against the Swish Group, according to Justin Wineburgh, a Cozen lawyer. Others who say that they've been scammed have retained attorneys to take on the Australian company.

    Dharma claims to be appalled by Swish's actions and said that when production of "Jihaad" resumes next month in New York, it will be with a different line producer.

    Sometime after the Dec. 23 wrap in Philly, Bhowmick-Lange signed letters sent to cast and crew along with the checks owed to them.

    "Dear wonderful crew, Thank you for a great shoot," read an undated letter obtained by the Daily News. After providing contact information for Stynes, Georgiades and another Swish employee, Bhowmick-Lange wrote: "Please be advised to deposit the checks anytime after and NOT BEFORE the 9th January. I sincerely apologize for this inconvenience.

    "Have a wonderful new year!"

    By most accounts, checks deposited or cashed on Jan. 10 bounced.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2008
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    Default Re: Philly Got Jihaaded!

    I try not to do a fandango all over the concepts of copyright and fair use, so I usually let people follow links ...

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